Saturday, 21 April 2012

loving much, and experiments in living

'Why should it be essential to love rarely in order to love much?' said Camus.

Look at that handsome man! Camus was well-loved, by literary critics and women alike. He was gorgeous and intelligent, and kept mistresses constantly throughout his married life. I'm reading 'Le Premier Homme' at the moment for an upcoming French exam, and you can see traces of the adult he was to become in the autobiographical work. A footnote early on in the book stipulates that the book should be 'heavy with things and flesh'. Right at the end of the book, he declares how much 'Jacques Cormery', the protagonist (a pseudonym for him) has a 'love of bodies, of their beauty, which made him laugh with bliss on the beaches, of their warmth that never stopped attracting him, with nothing particular in mind, like an animal'. This is a man who delighted in bodies, and love, whether long-lasting or brief. There's nothing sordid in that.

Sartre used to compare writing and love, saying that they came from the same creative process. He and de Beauvoir championed an experiment in living: the open relationship, which was scandalous at the time. In the 21st century climate, with things like girlonthenet, Belle du Jour, Tulisa's sex tape broadcast, and swingers parties or clubs like Killing Kittens in London becoming normalised, then an open relationship doesn't seem that exciting now. But de Beauvoir - author of The Second Sex, the manifesto for the beginning of the women's movement - described her relationship with Sartre as the 'greatest achievement' of her life. And despite all of our desires to have many lovers, to be sexually active - to love often and to love well, in other words - it is still an achievement nowadays to have a long-lasting relationship. What is more of an achievement in this day and age is not to successfully pull off an open relationship where each partner can take their own lovers, but, perhaps, to have a long, happy (possibly monogamous) relationship. That seems to be the more unusual thing. 

A famous Baudelaire quote reads, “Unable to suppress love, the Church wanted at least to disinfect it, and so created marriage.” Baudelaire was a dandy who squandered money and carried on illicit affairs, one of which was with his 'Black Venus', Jeanne Duval. What is it with these French writers? Not to mention Marguerite Duras' 'L'Amant', an autobiographical account of herself as a 15 year old having an affair with a 27 year old Chinese man. Then of course, the quintessential story of the adulterous wife: Flaubert's Madame Bovary. 

Basically, what I'm trying to say is this: my module in French Realism is like a course in how to have an exciting sex life.

Chicago review

This sultry jazz musical, full of glint-eyed murderesses and big dance numbers, shot to fame with the 2002 film starring Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Any touring company will rake in an audience because of the success of Chicago, but will also perform in the shadow of the Oscar-winning film. Unfortunately, this production captured none of the sparkle and sassiness that is such a defining characteristic of the show and remained firmly in the shadow of previous, more successful adaptations.

Hoping to be swept away by the well-known opening number, All That Jazz, I remained uninspired by the lacklustre beginning. The choreography was performed correctly (but this faint praise is all I feel able to offer due to the desperate lack of energy on stage), and Velma Kelly’s (Tupele Dorgu’s) vocals were spot-on, if she seemed to take little pleasure in the performance. Ali Bastian as Roxie Hart had more sass in her performance, lolling sexily off a steel ladder brought on to one side of the stage, and her entrance far outshone that of Dorgu. Bastian in general put her all into the role, and portrayed Roxie with a slightly more wicked twist than I’ve seen in other interpretations, with absolutely no guilt felt towards her maltreated husband Amos, and instead a Machiavellian determination to earn celebrity and fortune.

©Grand Opera House York

The Cell Block Tango was the first song to start to convince me that some of the performers actually wanted to be on stage. The female chorus, notably Genevieve Nicole and Claire Rogers, exploited the more comedic moments of their parts with gusto, earning laughter from the audience. The energy raised from the sexy rendition of Cell Block Tango was unfortunately dissipated by the following song, When You’re Good to Mama, performed by Bernie Nolan as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton. Nolan is no stranger to the UK touring scene, having performed in the lead role of Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, but despite her achingly beautiful singing voice, she had none of the avarice, the double-dealing and the sex appeal that is so important in the role of Mama Morton. Her physicality was static and she looked uncomfortable with some of the more suggestive lyrics, offering an uneasy lean towards the audience with a half-suggestive gesture towards her cleavage. Although I do not doubt the vocal talent of Nolan one bit, I think that the ribald humour and easygoing sexuality of the role didn’t sit easily with her as an actress.

The scenes with Billy Flynn (portrayed suavely by Stefan Booth) were the most reliant on props in this mostly bare touring production. The ensemble girls used luxuriant feather fans (which were accommodated well by the choreography, both encapsulating the seductive style of showgirls and also a humourous slapstick-esque sequence), or small umbrellas to protect them from the rain of glitter floating down from the ceiling. The Billy Flynn scenes were the most glitzy, and really took advantage of the jazzy show numbers and the overall style of the musical. One noticeable aspect of the production was how bare it was – the costumes, hair and make-up were beautifully done, even if there were too many men in leather trousers (can you ever have too many men in leather trousers?), but the staging was simplistic, due, presumably to it being a touring production. Small details like newspapers which were printed only on one side and blank on the other, and an unnecessary proscenium arch that only served to narrow the stage-space, made the performance seem less professional than it should have been. Although the energy did increase over the course of the show, the lifeless beginning is unfortunately the main element to have stuck in my mind, which meant that Chicago just wasn’t as thrilling or sexy as it could have been.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

delighting in the difference

I'm going stir-crazy at home with just essays to do. Worrying a bit about the sheer amount of work I have. Combined with doing TakeOver Festival, job applications, having to dash down to London from York for job interviews and assessment days and then dash up again just to use the library, and you know, having a social life an' all and not being a complete hermit. And all of this on minus-amounts of cash.

I miss last summer, and stealing baths from roadside skips and dragging them all the way to my garage. Lighting candles and bringing in pillows and blankets. So many nights talked through, so many mornings greeted blearily when we opened the garage door and saw a dawn-light - blew out the candles but carried on talking. Still drinking wine. Drinking wine at eight o'clock in the morning on the swings in the local park. Having talked all night, wearing layers and layers and not drunk, any more, just happy. And still so much to talk about!

I need to do something with my life that I'll remember. I need to get out of this damn country or meet some new people or move to London or do something different, for Christ's sake.

 André Breton's atelier.


 I wish I could stop thinking about summers gone, or people gone. It's so distracting, this constant reminiscing. I think it's because right now my routine (and solitude, up on this lonely hill in the middle of the country with only my mother for company, God rest her soul) has got into a steady grind.

I want to be an artist's model forever. I could quite happily spend a lot of my time naked in 30s Paris, drinking at parties with Picasso and Nin and Miller. 

As long as I get to do some of the thinking, too.